Celtics bench steps up

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Celtics bench steps up

BOSTON As you scan the Boston Celtics bench, you see Marquis Daniels. Keyon Dooling. Greg Stiemsma. Mickael Pietrus.

All have proven at some point that they can contribute in a meaningful way to the C's success.

But those opportunities have been few and far between.

Friday night was a chance for the C's bench to make a difference.

Did they ever.

For as dominate as Kevin Garnett was around the basket, or how Rajon Rondo continued to do figure 8s around the Heat's defense, it was the Celtics' second unit that surged them to a much-needed 101-91 Game Three win.

"Every guy that came off our bench contributed for our basketball team," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "And we needed it."

The biggest - and probably most unexpected - lift of the night for Boston came from Marquis Daniels, who had nine of the second unit's 19 points on Friday.

Daniels played 17 minutes on Friday.

After having played 22 minutes in a blowout win over Atlanta on May 6, Daniels had only played a total of 10 minutes prior to Friday.

"I just have to stay ready, regardless," Daniels said. "You never know when you're number is going to be called."

Or if a player will be able to answer when the call is made.

While much of the strong bench play can be attributed to Daniels' contributions on both ends of the floor, the Celtics didn't begin to pull away until Keyon Dooling drained a 3-pointer late in the first quarter that cut the Heat lead in half.

That would set into motion an 8-0 Celtics run that gave them a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.

"Being home gives you a sense of comfort," Dooling said. "That definitely gave us some extra energy."

Indeed, the Celtics second unit looked and played with a little more pep in their step, coming up with plays at both ends of the floor which is rare for this group.

"Listen, they are not going to put up great numbers offensively, but they know exactly who they are," Rivers said. "They accept that, and they are comfortable with that."

They are a group whose greatest contributions most nights are going to come defensively.

Even with the C's holding their own offensively, much of that success came about because of what they were able to do at the other end of the floor.

"What the second unit did was they came in with a defensive energy that changed the game," Rivers said. "And they scored off the defense. They got stops, they ran the floor I thought it was more from that. And that's who they are."

And while the Celtics would love to bottle the play of the bench, hoping it would spill over into Game Four, these veterans understand that's not likely to happen.

"It's the Eastern Conference finals. There won't be any carry over from this game to the next game," Dooling said. "It's a new game, it's a new day, it will be a new challenge. We have to be up for it."

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

Blakely: Despite their spot in East, consistency remains a problem for Celtics

BOSTON –  Devin Booker went on a scoring binge for the ages against the Boston Celtics on Friday night, the likes of which won’t be seen anytime soon at the TD Garden.

The performance was so great, even the most die-hard Green Teamers had to give the 20-year-old props for dropping 70 points – 70 points! – on the Celtics who still wound up winning, 130-120.

And as Booker continued to pour on the points and the Celtics’ double-digit lead remained just that, a double-digit lead, the narrative of what we witnessed was a lot deeper than just some young kid getting hot.

The Suns are trying lose as many games as they can, while throwing youngsters out there like Booker to play major minutes and predictably make their share of mistakes with the goal being to learn from those miscues and get better.

But the true lesson in what went down Friday night had little to do with Booker’s big night or some Celtics being a little salty about it afterwards.

Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Booker’s big night was the repeated revelation by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the game about his team’s play and their record not being on one accord.

“That’s why, like I’ve said before, I’m surprised at where we are record-wise because we’ve got to play at a higher level for 48 minutes,” Stevens said. “We just don’t do it.”

And Booker’s historic night is the latest example to illustrate Stevens’ point.

Not having Avery Bradley (sickness) was a factor, obviously.

But that’s no excuse for the way they allowed Booker to do anything and everything he wanted to on the floor, allowing a really good shooter to gain confidence to the point where there was literally nothing the Celtics could do to cool him off.

The Celtics looked casual for three-plus quarters defensively against the Suns and still managed to win which says more about Phoenix and its desire to lose as much as possible, than Boston’s ability to find success and overcome a player with a hot hand.

It was another case of Boston getting away from what works while settling into what felt good and easy.

Most of the guys Phoenix played on Friday weren’t players you would consider big-time scoring threats, so the Celtics defensively didn’t play with a defensive edge other than the first six minutes of the game.

In that span, Phoenix didn’t make a single shot from the field while Boston bolted out to a 16-3 lead.

From there, the Celtics didn’t play with the same sense of urgency.

Fortunately for them, they were playing a team that didn’t want to win.

That’s not going to be the case in these remaining games, a mixture of playoff-bound clubs, wannabe playoff-bound crews and a few others with rosters full of players fighting to stay in the league who will use these remaining games essentially as an audition for next season.

If Boston plays like this in any of their remaining games, they’ll most likely lose.

And that’s why Brad Stevens continues to harp on this team not being as good as their record.

Because when you’re in the same class record-wise with teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Cleveland and Houston, there’s a certain expectation of consistency you should play with most nights.

The Warriors and Rockets have explosive scorers; the Spurs play elite-level defense most nights and the Cavs have LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Those factors form the basis of their consistency in terms of winning and overall play.

But the Celtics are very much a wild and unpredictable bunch, able to knock off Cleveland and Golden State, but get blasted by Denver and lose to Philadelphia.

If inconsistent play is a hallmark of this team, their potential for having a great season will be remembered as just that, potential.

Because games like the one they played on Friday against Phoenix on more nights than not, will result in a loss which could put the Celtics very much in the crosshairs for an early playoff exit.

Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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Five takeaways: Booker's 70 puts focus on C's lack of D

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